Go North (2017)

A potentially apocalyptic even wiped out all adults from the country, leaving kids to take care of younger kids.  In this situation, some became leaders, some teachers, while others thrived in chaos.  As things are looking bleaker and bleaker, Josh decides to do something and heads North with a friend.  Soon, some of those in charge go after them.  Through this, all will discover more about the world and themselves. Directed by Matt Ogens who co-wrote with Kyle Lierman, the film takes the post-apocalyptic approach that is being seen more and more again and removes all adults from the picture, leaving it to a Lord of the Flies situation with kids being left to their own devices and some knowing better how to keep going while others look for escape.

The children, teens, and very young adults they create here have a mild to heavy desperation about all of them and a sadness that runs throughout.  These kids are developed in a way that is human and that is not cute or adorable.  They are humans fighting for their lives and trying to survive.  The power shift without the adults create a sort of Standford Experiment meets Lord of the Flies where some kids are purposefully put in charge and it goes to some of these kids heads.  The power makes some want to care for others while it makes others go bad and just want to get more and more power.  The way this is approached and worked through the story makes the viewer forget that none of these characters are over 22 years old and that most of them have more than a few needs that are not being met for most of the film.

The leads are written to be strong with some weaknesses that make them very human and rather relatable. The cast is young here as it is needed to be.  The leads of Josh, Jessie, Caleb, and Gentry, played by Jacob Lofland, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Patrick Schwarzenegger, and James Bloor respectively all give performances beyond their age and experience.  Jacob Lofland imbues his performance with some much sadness and hope all at once that it’s hard to not want him to succeed.  His performance is the one that grabs the attention and doesn’t let go.  Sophie Clark Kennedy holds her own in a group of mostly male actors and she adds a touch of femininity in the film as she is becoming a woman in a place even rougher than the current state of the world.  Her acting is good and her choices make sense.

The setting for this story is somewhere in what looks to be the United States and the kids go through nature trying to head North.  This and the small, deserted towns they start in and pass through are carefully selected to make it look like indeed all adults have been gone for a while.  The settings helped by the cinematography by John Tipton create a world that is familiar yet distant to some degree.  Everything seems like it could be Anytown, USA, but the lack of people around, the lack of adults, the lack of activity create a desolate situation.  The forest or nature scenes feel less so as it’s basically how these normally look, but the way other scenes are leave a lingering effect of loneliness even when they are not in the desolate small towns.  The film sets up the feelings with images and with settings even before the kids come into play. Go North is a slightly different take on post-apocalyptic movies that creates a very realistic setting for its story and believable characters and situations.

Of course, a disease or situation that would only take out the adults is more or less possible, but that aside, the film is developed in a way that works and brings reality to its sub-genre with strong performances and simplicity that hits the viewer in their feelings.

In select U.S. theaters and is on VOD nationwide January 13.